a few interesting things about our censorship system

I was reading this article on Refused Classification (RC) over at libertus.net and there were a few bits that jumped out at me, either because I wasn’t aware of them or because I’d not thought terribly deeply about them. Here, what do you think?

All web pages are required to be classified as “film”, regardless of their content

According to the Commonwealth Classification Act, a film is defined as “any […] form of recording from which a visual image, including a computer generated image, can be produced”.

Stephen Conroy has repeatedly asserted that RC content can’t be bought “[…] in a bookstore, you can’t go the movies and watch it, you can’t buy a DVD and look at it, and you can’t see it in newspapers. This is material that’s already banned in Australia.”

What he doesn’t mention is that some RC content can be bought in several shops not 10 minutes walk from my house. I’m talking about printed publications that include fetish material. Regardless of your opinion on that kind of material, a description of mild or stronger fetish activity here on this website would be eligible for blocking by the mandatory content filter, but would be perfectly legal to buy in a shop.

Huh. So if fetish material would be RC on the internet (and therefore blocked), I wonder what else would be RC that we might not expect?

Minor Crimes

Conroy also often talks about RC being the “worst of the worst”, child pornography and extreme violence and whatnot. Did you know though, that Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure was refused classification because it “provided elements of promotion of the crime of graffiti”. It was described by The Age as “Set in a city of the future, the game features a world where freedom of expression is suppressed by a tyrannical city government. Players battle the authorities to overthrow corrupt officials using only street fighting skills and graffiti”.

How about a satirical newspaper article in the La Trobe University student paper called “The Art of Shoplifting” being refused classification? There are several other cases of material being refused classification for similar reasons.

Looks like RC is not really the “worst of the worst” then, is it? Actually, it looks like the scope of RC is really pretty broad. Well that’s a bit troubling, because I’ve gotten the impression from Senator Conroy that this material is illegal! Does that mean I’ve been breaking the law if I’ve seen anything like this on the Internet? Actually, it turns out…

In most cases, possession of RC content is legal in Australia (except in WA and the NT)

Yep – as the law stands today, it’s legal to access or obtain via the Internet and to possess most RC material (with the exception of child exploitation/abuse type material). It’s legal for you to possess an RC video game and to play it. It’s legal for you to access and view YouTube videos about graffiti on the Internet. It’s legal for you to own and view personally an RC film like Baise Moi, in your own home. Mandatory content filtering will prevent Internet users from conducting what are currently totally legal activities in their own home.

The upshot

Censorship as applied in Australia today is inconsistent across media, illogical in its application to new technologies and yet for the most part is not applicable when considering personal possession.

With all this talk about the mandatory filter, maybe we’ve missed the broader picture that our censorship system is really quite broken. I really do recommend going and reading that full article on libertus.net if you have the time.

beyond conspiracy and one world government

There are a few succinct explanations of the nature of climate change around and I thought it might be nice to spread the word a little bit further. The waters have become so muddy on the issue that we’re getting beyond “the climate isn’t changing,” “it’s just part of a natural cycle” and “even if it’s getting hotter, it’s not a bad thing.”

It’s now strange conspiracy theories of grant money hungry scientists and a complicit media manipulated by huge green companies’ agendas. All of them chasing riches, and some attempting to bring about a new world order.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to take a step back from the current debate and get back to some fundamentals. Here’s a condensed version of a fairly science-heavy article entitled “The CO2 problem in 6 easy steps” from realclimate.org. It aims to explain why increasing CO2 is a problem without using models:

  1. There is a natural greenhouse effect. This is illustrated through calculations based on the mean temperature of the earth, the amount of energy arriving at the earth and the fact that the planet is in radiative equilibrium.
  2. Trace gases contribute to the natural greenhouse effect. Remember high-school chemistry – spectrometry? IR spectra from space show absorption lines associated with CO2, H2O vapour, CH4 etc. The effect of CO2 in the mix has been calculated from these spectra, and it’s significant.
  3. The trace greenhouse gases have increased markedly due to human emissions. We know CO2 has increased by more than 30% and methane has more than doubled.
  4. Radiative forcing is a useful diagnostic and can easily be calculated. This one involves some scary maths for the layperson, but the conclusion is that a change in the radiation budget at the top of the atmosphere is a pretty good predictor of future surface temperature change. Read the original article for more detail.
  5. Climate sensitivity is around 3ºC for a doubling of CO2. By analysing the climate’s response to known forcing changes from the past, it is possible to derive a sensitivity figure of ~3ºC.
  6. Radiative forcing x climate sensitivity is a significant number. Current forcing from trace gasses implies an equilibrium of around 1.2ºC – since we aren’t there yet (~0.7ºC of warming to date), we’ve still got another 0.5ºC in the pipeline. Additional forcing from additional emissions as per BAU is calculated to result in 2ºC  to 5ºC warming – significant, right?

And if you want more information about this stuff, check out “Is Global Warming Still Happening?” and “Empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming” from Skeptical Science.

pretty pictures

Last night I finally finished uploading my many, many photos from New Zealand to my gallery, and a small selection to Facebook. Here are a few tasters, either click on the image or click “gallery” up the top to view them all (edit: you need to register to see any pictures of people such as me):

Steam 'n' Algae
Thermal Spring at Orakei Korako
Huka Falls
Huka Falls
Through Treees
Kaiteriteri - near Abel Tasman National Park
Long Shot
Fox Glacier

back home!

Back in Sydney tonight. It’s very hot and humid compared to Queenstown!

Here is a picture! I’ll upload all my photos tomorrow, most likely.

new zealand’s stupid right-hand-turn rule

Update (Mar 12): Sanity prevails! New Zealand’s right hand turn rule changes to align with the rest of the western world on March 25th at 5am. See here: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/around-nz/road-user-rule.html. I leave this post as a testament to how silly this rule was.

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I have a compulsion to describe just how much I hate New Zealand’s stupid right of way road rules. Those of you who’ve driven here possibly understand the rage. For those of you who haven’t, let me try and explain how it works. Keep in mind vehicles drive on the left in NZ.

Here’s the single sentence version: In New Zealand, a vehicle turning left must give way to an oncoming vehicle making a right hand turn into the same road. Or to put it another way, when making a right hand turn across oncoming traffic, you need only give way to cars proceeding straight ahead. Oncoming vehicles turning left must give way to you. Clear? Didn’t think so. Here’s a picture:

Red car gives way to blue car.

In Australia (and pretty much everywhere else) when turning across oncoming traffic, you must give way to all oncoming vehicles. Nice and simple.

I’ve racked my brain trying to understand what benefits are conferred by this hare-brained approach. I’ve certainly encountered a couple of really dangerous situations that are created by the rule. I’ll use some pictures to explain the problems.

Situation one – Vehicle A making a left hand turn at a four way intersection with traffic lights and pedestrians crossing. When a red light changes to green, generally pedestrians crossing in the same direction will get a green signal too. This means when turning left, you must wait until the crossing is clear of pedestrians before turning. No worries. Only problem is, pedestrians will sometimes dart across the crossing when their signal has started flashing red, so the driver of Vehicle A must pay close attention throughout the turn to avoid collecting anyone.

Watching the pedestrian? Mind the car about to crash into your driver's side door!

While busy watching pedestrians and making a left turn, the driver of Vehicle A just might miss an oncoming Vehicle B with right of way turning right on top of them. Dangerous, sure. Not the worst one though.

Situation two – Vehicle A making a right hand turn on a straight but narrow road, while a large left-turning oncoming Vehicle B gives way. What a driver may not be able to see behind the oncoming Vehicle B is another Vehicle C which is not turning. It is legal for this hidden Vehicle C to pass the slowing/stopped Vehicle B. Upon passing, Vehicle C has right of way over Vehicle A which may have already started to turn, possibly resulting in a passenger-side collision. Very not good. This was described here at Fush ‘n’ Chups from where I nicked the diagram (thanks guy!)

It's bad enough as is. Now imagine Red Car can't actually see Yellow Car.

So when is this nutty rule actually meant to help? Can anyone describe some scenarios that are actually made safer by the rule?

Edit: I’ve discovered from a news article from 4 days ago that the NZ government are at last planning on ditching this rule! Hooray!